Practise what we Preach

This is good advice for deacons. When deacons give homilies, their homilies will have much more impact if they themselves practise what they preach. It’s also good advice for each one of us as far as spreading the gospel is concerned. When we speak about following Christ, our words will be much more effective if they are backed up by the way we live.

In the gospel that we heard a few moments ago, Jesus referred to people who had a responsibility to guide others by their preaching but he pointed out that some of these people did not put their own teaching into practice. They did not practise what they preached. So Jesus said to his listeners that they might find helpful guidance in what these preachers said but that they should be wary of what these preachers did. "Listen to what they say but do not be guided by what they do."

There is a problem if our actions do not match our words. St Charles Borromeo said that our life and conduct should be sermons in themselves. He was speaking particularly to those who were preachers and teachers but his words have a message for us all. He said: "Is your duty preaching and teaching? Make sure in the first place that your life and conduct are sermons in themselves. Do not give people cause to purse their lips and shake their heads during your sermons, since they have heard you before, preaching one thing, then seeing you doing the exact opposite."

If we say one thing and do another, our actions will undermine our words. On the other hand, if what we say is what we do ourselves, then our words and our lives will work together to give a clear message.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI published a document called "Evangelii Nuntiandi", "Announcing the Good News". He highlighted the importance of bearing witness to the message of Christ in our lives as well as in our words. In fact, he said that people would only take notice of the message if it was supported by the way we live. This is what he wrote: "The first means of evangelisation is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbour with limitless zeal. People today listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelise the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of holiness." (Evangelii Nuntiandi, par 41)

Last Saturday, Pope Francis beatified 124 Korean martyrs. He spoke of the great witness they had given to Christ. They lived for Christ. They were even prepared to die for Christ. Pope Francis said that these martyrs challenge us to consider our own faith. This is what Pope Francis said: "The martyrs call out to us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation toto him and his eternal kingdom. They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for.”

During these days of the Proclaim conference, we have a wonderful opportunity to hear about how we can share the good news of Christ. May the Lord grant us the grace to witness to the gospel, not only by our words but also by our lives. May we truly practise what we preach.